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42 BBY – Coruscant

Shmi stifled a yawn as she struggled to keep her eyes from glazing over. Nodding occasionally in an attempt to pretend as if she was following the conversation, Shmi glanced surreptitiously beyond the senator's head. From across the ballroom, she saw him, engaged in a lively conversation with fellow Jedi Master Yarael Poof. He had always been a natural at these tedious social events. He was a master socializer whereas she had always been crippling introverted. Perhaps that was why they had been so attracted to each other. Perhaps that was why they loved each other so much in spite of the obstacles to their relationship. Opposites attract, so the adage went.

Shmi smiled subtly as she returned her attention to the senator who had ceased droning and was looking at her expectantly. Blinking a few times, Shmi felt panic rise within her. Was she supposed to say something? Had the senator asked her something?

"Knight Skywalker?" the senator asked concernedly. "Did you hear me?"

Mortified, Shmi cleared her throat and shook her head. "I'm sorry, Senator," she said. "I must have drifted off for a second."

The urbane senator smiled at her, the corners of his eyes crinkling with amusement. "That's quite alright, my dear," he said. "I'm sure you are tired after you long mission. Forgive me for boring you." Shmi opened her mouth to insist the contrary, but the senator stopped her by holding up his right hand. "I understand, truly," he said. "As a senator, I have to be away from home for months on end as well. I can tell that you'd much rather be home than forced to talk with me."

Shmi smiled sheepishly and looked away, her cheeks tinged red with embarrassment. Unsure what to say, Shmi pursed her lips and crossed her arms.

"How long have you been away?" the senator asked casually.

"Six months," Shmi told him.

"I see," the senator said. "My condolences. I would go crazy if I was unable to visit my home world for that long."

"And where is your home world, Senator?" Shmi asked, feeling a surge of triumph at being able to continue the conversation without assistance.

The senator smiled wistfully and looked away for a moment. "Naboo," he said with a small sigh. "The most beautiful planet in the galaxy."

Shmi gave the senator an unadulterated smile. Although it was true that she would rather be home right now, she couldn't deny that she was charmed by the debonair Senator Palpatine. It was far easier to talk to him than it was with most of the other senators.

"Anyway, I will let you be," Palpatine said with a charismatic grin. "Again, congratulations on your successful mission. You truly are a rising star in the Jedi Order."

"Thank you, Senator," Shmi said with a bow of her head.

Palpatine extended his hand to her. "I will continue to watch your career with great interest," he told her as they shook hands. Shmi hesitated for a moment as Palpatine's eyes glinted hungrily. It was a barely perceptible shift, but Shmi caught it nonetheless. Disquieted, Shmi released the senator's hand quickly and stood up straight.

The smile plastered on Palpatine's face wavered for a moment as he noticed her discomfort. He recovered quickly, however, and offered his congratulations once again before drifting away. Shmi watched him leave curiously. Dismissing her disconcertion as being a result of her exhaustion, Shmi looked away to see her husband striding toward her. Shmi bit down hard on her tongue in order to prevent herself from smiling broadly at him. It had been six months since they had last seen each other. She desperately wanted to run into his arms, but she knew she couldn't do that. They were both members of the Jedi Order. It was of paramount importance that their relationship be kept secret.

Her husband was far less insistent on keeping their marriage hidden, however. He had made it explicitly clear that he was willing to leave the Order for her. Shmi refused to condone his sentiments, however. The Order meant everything to her. All her life, she had aspired to become a Jedi Master. Nothing, not even her love for her husband, would deter her from that goal. It was only out of his respect for her wishes that her husband had not attempted to force her hand and get them to leave the Order. Yet she knew that this was difficult on him. Whereas she yearned to become a Master, he wanted nothing more than to have a family.

It wasn't as if she didn't want a family as well, it just wasn't as important to her as it was to him. Did that mean that she didn't love her husband as much as he loved her? Shmi constantly wrestled with this question. After all, he was willing to sacrifice his goals for her while she was unwilling to do the same for him. She would tell herself that it wasn't her fault that their goals were mutually exclusive. It wasn't her fault that the Jedi Code prevented them from being able to live freely together. Nonetheless, she felt horribly guilty.

"Want to get out of here?" he asked when he reached her, his blue eyes sparkling suggestively.

Shmi frowned at him with mock sternness. "We can't leave together," she said. "You know the rule, Qui-Gon."

Qui-Gon sighed exasperatedly. "It's been six months, Shmi!" he complained.

"You can follow me after five minutes," she told him. "It will look suspicious if we leave together."

"Would it really?" Qui-Gon asked. "Everyone here thinks we're friends anyway."

Shmi rolled her eyes, amused more so than she was irritated by his obstinacy. "I know that, but it's best to be careful," she said. Glancing around to see if anyone was watching them, Shmi took a step toward him. Rising up onto her toes, she whispered into his ear: "Besides, I won't be able to keep my hands off you if we leave together right now."

Qui-Gon gulped loudly and blinked a few times, clearly surprised by her forwardness. She had never been one to act salaciously with Qui-Gon, even when they were alone. Yet being separated for six months had evidently diminished her natural inhibitions.

"Very well," Qui-Gon said, his normally deep, mellifluous voice sounding higher than usual.

Shmi stepped away from him and gave him a demure smile. "I'll see you later, Master Jinn," she said, feeling uncharacteristically embarrassed in front of him.

"Likewise, Knight Skywalker," Qui-Gon said with a wink.


One month later

Shmi woke up early that morning as usual. Rolling over, she disentangled herself from Qui-Gon's sleeping form and sat upright. With a deep sigh, Shmi contemplated her husband's peaceful countenance with a small smile. They didn't often get the opportunity to spend the night together, yet fortunately the stars had aligned for them the previous afternoon.

She felt herself blush as she recounted the last night despite the fact that she was totally alone. Qui-Gon had been the only one who had been able to get her to loosen up. Without him, she was as uptight and reserved as they come. Beforehand, she had been an unrelenting dogmatist, utterly and completely devoted to the Jedi Code. It made sense for her to be this way. After all, her old master Mace Windu was renowned – or perhaps infamous – for his strict adherence to the code.

Qui-Gon, on the other hand, was anything but an obedient follower of the code. On the contrary, it seemed as if Qui-Gon went out of his way to test the limits of the code. As a Padawan learner, Shmi had resented Qui-Gon for his recalcitrance and generally unruly behavior. In spite of her obvious dislike for the older Jedi, Qui-Gon had begun to take greater and greater interest in her as they both matured. By the time she was in her twenties and a full-fledged knight, she had begun to thaw in the face of Qui-Gon's ebullient charm.

She had tried her best to prevent herself from falling in love with him, but in retrospect it seemed like her fate was inevitable. They both knew that they were made for each other, and Qui-Gon had made it his life's mission to win her over. Three years ago, they had been married in secret on the beautiful world of Serenno. The ceremony had been overseen by Qui-Gon's old master, Count Dooku. Dooku alone knew of their relationship and he had been remarkably generous toward them. Since Dooku had left the Jedi Order some time ago and had burned all bridges with the institution on his way out, they figured they had nothing to fear from him knowing their secret.

While she could acknowledge that her relationship with Qui-Gon had indubitably gotten her to relax her previously dogmatic outlook, she still revered the code as her master had taught her to do. Because of this, Shmi had been in a constant state of internal anguish for the past three years. How could she reconcile the two fundamental facets of her life when they were diametrically opposed to one another? Was it not terribly hypocritical of her to aspire to become a Jedi Master when she had so blatantly violated the code which all Masters swore to uphold?

Qui-Gon would always dismiss her concerns and insist that she was being too harsh on herself. He had been made a Master five years ago, and he didn't abide by the code in the slightest. Why should she force herself to do so, he would ask. She had learned to stop voicing her concerns to her husband. While she knew Qui-Gon did love her, she also knew that he wanted her to be someone she was not. He wanted her to leave the Order with him, and that was the one thing in the galaxy she would not do for him. As a consequence there was always an undercurrent of tension between them. Shmi knew it was only a matter of time before they had to address the fundamental flaw in their illicit relationship, and Shmi feared that day like nothing else.

Qui-Gon awoke with a start when Shmi's comlink vibrated loudly on the end table. Leaping toward the device, Shmi activated it and held her hand around the microphone in order to muffle out any noises Qui-Gon made. Part of her suspected that Qui-Gon wanted them to get caught, because it oftentimes seemed as if he deliberately tried to sabotage her efforts of secrecy. This morning was no exception.

"Knight Skywalker?" a familiar voice asked from over the comlink. "Do you copy?"

"I do, Master Windu," Shmi said as Qui-Gon began to plant light kisses up and down her shoulder, his beard tickling her bare skin pleasantly. "What is it?" she asked as she attempted to push Qui-Gon away with her left arm.

"The Council requests your presence at nine hundred hours," Windu informed her. Shmi suddenly yelped in surprise when Qui-Gon's hand began to drift south. "Skywalker? Is everything alright?" Windu asked.

"Yes, of course," Shmi said quickly as she jumped out of bed away from Qui-Gon's reach. Qui-Gon groaned in disappointment and collapsed back down onto his face, his arms sprawled out so that his entire wingspan covered the width of the bed. "I'll be there."

"Very good," Windu said. "Windu out."

Deactivating the comlink, Shmi spun around and faced Qui-Gon with her hands on her hips. Qui-Gon looked up from the pillow with a somewhat rueful expression. "You are unbelievable," she said to him.

"Oh come on, Shmi," Qui-Gon sighed as he flipped over onto his back. "I was just having some fun."

"That was Windu!" Shmi said, pointing to the comlink on the end table. "You know he already suspects something. Do you have no self-control whatsoever?"

"No, not really," Qui-Gon said honestly, his eyes roaming over her body unabashedly. "Especially not when neither of us are wearing any clothes."

With an exasperated sigh, Shmi leaned down and swiped the sheets off the bed, leaving Qui-Gon completely exposed. "Hey!" he exclaimed indignantly. Wrapping the sheets around her shoulders, Shmi gave him a triumphant look and spun away. "Shmi!" he called after her. "Give those back!"

"Why should I do that?" she asked as she marched over toward the dresser, the sheets billowing behind her like a cape. Qui-Gon shook his head, but didn't say anything when she dropped the sheets and began rummaging through a drawer for a nightgown. She could feel Qui-Gon's eyes on her as she pulled the silken dress over her head. Turning around, she contemplated Qui-Gon's own body for a brief moment before sending the sheets back toward the bed with a casual wave of her hand.

Qui-Gon made an indignant sound when the sheets collided with his face and forced him back against the headrest. Shmi chortled as she left the room, leaving a flustered Qui-Gon behind her as he struggled to extricate himself from the sheets.

A few minutes later, Qui-Gon joined her in the kitchen. Shmi looked up from her breakfast and smiled sweetly at him. "I take it you slept well?" she asked as her eyes drifted back down to her datapad as she resumed perusing the news.

"Always when I'm with you," Qui-Gon told her as he opened the fridge door. Shmi's smile broadened and the two fell into a comfortable silence. After a while, Qui-Gon sat down across from her with a glass of milk in hand. "What do you think the Council wants?" he asked.

"I don't know," Shim said. "It could be anything."

"I think I know what it's about," Qui-Gon said.

"Oh, yeah?" Shmi said without looking up at him. "What's that?"

"They're going to make you a Master."

Shmi snorted and shook her head. When she saw Qui-Gon's eyes, however, she could tell that he was being serious. "Do you actually think so?" she asked.

"Absolutely," Qui-Gon said without hesitation.

Shmi stared back at him silently for a few moments as she considered this. Was it possible that she was going to be made a Master today? Could it be that her lifelong dream was about to be realized? "That's not possible," she said, deciding it safest not to get her hopes up. "I'm too young. Besides, I'm not qualified yet."

"You're not qualified?" Qui-Gon repeated incredulously. "Are you joking, Shmi?"

"No I'm not!" Shmi insisted defensively. "I haven't done nearly enough." Qui-Gon shook his head and chuckled to himself. "What?" she asked. "Why are you laughing?"

"You are more qualified to be a Master than half the members on the Council," Qui-Gon said. "You can't honestly believe that you're not qualified?"

Shmi opened her mouth to offer a retort, but closed it again. If she was being honest with herself, she did think that she was qualified. She knew she was more powerful than most if not all of her peers. The Force always seemed to bend to her will in ways which it didn't to anyone else, not even Master Yoda. Her disposition to cautiousness and self-doubt, however, caused her to insist that she wasn't qualified to be a Master. She was too young, she would tell herself. Too inexperienced. Too unconfident.

Qui-Gon reached out and placed his hand on top of hers, his skin cool and a little damp from the glass of milk he had been clutching. "You deserve this, Shmi," he told her, his kind eyes sparkling with affection. "Don't let anybody, especially yourself, tell you that you don't."

Shmi sighed and looked down at their hands. "Well maybe so, but I don't think it's going to happen today," she said. "Maybe in a few years."

Qui-Gon retracted his hand and leaned back in his chair. "Well whenever it happens, it better happen soon. You belong on that council, Shmi."

Shmi nodded and looked down, her throat constricted a bit. There was the conflict again. There was the perpetual underlying tension. While he had kept it a secret from her, Shmi had found out that Qui-Gon had refused an offer to join the Jedi Council. When she had confronted him about it, he had insisted that he had only refused because he didn't want to sit in on 'all those boring meetings,' as he had put it. Shmi knew that the real reason he had declined was because of her, however. He knew that she had always wanted to be on the Council. Therefore he had declined the offer so that the seat would remain open for her should the Council decide to offer her the position instead.

It pained her to see Qui-Gon sacrifice so much for her when she had done so little for him. He was willing to sabotage his own professional career so that she could obtain her goals, whereas she was entirely unwilling to do the same for him. Part of her – a very small part of her – wished that Qui-Gon would fall in love with someone else. Someone who could give him what he wanted. Someone who would be willing to start a family. Yet Shmi knew that was impossible. Qui-Gon would never leave her, no matter what she did to him.

Shmi made a face when she took a bite of toast. It tasted rancid. Maybe the butter had gone bad. Dropping it back to her plate, Shmi pushed her breakfast away and stood up.

"What's wrong?" Qui-Gon asked quickly.

"Nothing. I don't have much of an appetite," Shmi told him absently, her mind still focused on her internal dilemma. "I'm going to go get changed. I have to be at the temple in an hour."

Qui-Gon nodded and reached out across the table to take her barely touched breakfast plate. "You mind if I eat this?" he asked.

"Sure, go ahead," Shmi said, still feeling queasy as she walked out of the kitchen speedily.


"There has been a disturbance in the Force. Have you felt it, Knight Skywalker?"

Shmi blinked a few times and looked away from Windu. "I can't say that I have," she admitted. "When did this happen?"

Windu frowned, his fingers interlaced together in front of his mouth. "Last night," he said. Well that explained it. She had been rather… preoccupied last night. Windu sat upright in his chair and stroked his chin pensively as he contemplated her face. "I must say, it is most surprising that you did not sense a disturbance of this magnitude."

Shmi gulped and shifted her feet nervously. She could feel eleven pairs of eyes on her. How much longer would she be able to fool them all? How had she managed to hide her secret for this long? She knew Windu was already suspicious of her, although there was no way he could possibly know the truth, could he?

"I apologize, Master," she said. "I will be more diligent in the future."

Windu narrowed his eyes but didn't probe any further. "We summoned you to this session to ask you to uncover the source of this disturbance," he said. "Perhaps it would be best if we chose someone else, however."

"No!" Shmi said at once. "I can do it."

"Skywalker has proven herself to be more than capable," Ki-Adi Mundi said. Shmi turned to the Cerean Master and bowed her head, thanking him for his endorsement.

"I agree with Master Mundi," Plo Koon said from the opposite end of the circular room. "Skywalker is the ideal candidate for this mission."

Shmi elevated her chin and stared back at Windu who still looked unconvinced. She knew that this was a huge opportunity. No doubt she would be made a Master if she succeeded and uncovered the source of this disturbance.

"Very well," Windu said, causing Shmi's spirits to soar. "You will go alone on this mission, Knight Skywalker. It is of utmost importance that you keep this mission a secret. Tell nobody of this assignment. Not even your fellow Jedi Knights."

"Very well," Shmi said, surprised by this unprecedented request. It was clear that the Council was deeply perturbed by this disturbance. "I will leave at once," she said, cringing internally as she realized how betrayed Qui-Gon was going to feel when she left without telling him where she was going. Yet she knew she couldn't tell him. It would be too risky to defy the Council so blatantly.

"Very good," Windu said, clearly pleased by her expediency. "You will go to the Jakku system. We believe the source of the disturbance is coming from there."

Shmi nodded her head and bowed to her former master. "I won't let you down, Master," she said.

"May the Force be with you, Skywalker," Windu said. "This meeting is adjourned."


"What do you mean you can't tell me?" Qui-Gon asked incredulously.

"The Council forbade me, Qui-Gon," Shmi said wearily as she folded a tunic on her lap. "We've been over this."

"But I'm your husband! I deserve to know!"

"I know that, Qui-Gon!" Shmi said, exasperation creeping into her voice for the first time.

"Then why won't you tell me?"

Frustrated, Shmi set the folded tunic aside on a pile and rested her forehead on her palm. "Why do you care so much?" she asked.

Qui-Gon sputtered indignantly, evidently flabbergasted by this question. "Why do I care?" he repeated. "I'm your husband, Shmi! I want to know if you're going to be safe wherever you're going."

"I'll be fine," Shmi insisted dismissively.

"You don't know that!"

"I'll be fine, Qui-Gon!"

"If you're so sure of that, why can't you tell me where you're going?"

Irritated by his persistence, Shmi raised her head and gave her husband a withering glare. "You don't control me, Qui-Gon. Just because we're married doesn't mean I have to tell you everything."

Nonplussed, Qui-Gon blinked a few times before responding. "What is that supposed to mean? I thought you couldn't tell me because the Council forbade you."

"They did," Shmi said. "But you are being too domineering over me, as well."

"Domineering?"

"Yes, domineering," Shmi said. "You're obsessing over me, Qui-Gon! I can't do anything without you having to know about it."

"That's not true at all!" Qui-Gon insisted indignantly.

"Yes it is! Ever since I got back from my last mission, you've hardly ever let me leave your sights!"

"Well forgive me for wanting to spend time with my wife whom I haven't seen for over half a year!"

"You know what, Qui-Gon? Get out!"

"Get out? Of my own bedroom?"

"Get out!"

Waving his hand, Qui-Gon stormed out of the room and slammed the door behind him. Unclenching her fists, Shmi closed her eyes and exhaled slowly, calming herself down.

What had just happened? It wasn't as if she and Qui-Gon had never had fights before, but they had never been as explosive as that one had been. Shmi stood up and began pacing, waiting for her heart rate to slow down. Something inside her had snapped, and it scared her. She had never unleashed on Qui-Gon like that before. She had noticed that she was becoming increasingly volatile over the past months. Her moods were swinging abruptly and viciously, and unfortunately Qui-Gon had been the primary victim of her newfound mercuriality.

What was even more troubling was that she knew that she was entirely in the wrong. Qui-Gon wasn't being domineering over her; he had every right to want to know where she was going. She had intentionally fabricated something to criticize so that she could push him away. Why? Why had she done that? Qui-Gon meant everything to her!

Shmi stopped pacing and looked down at the floor, her hands rested over the back of her head. That wasn't actually true, was it? Qui-Gon wasn't the most important thing in her life, the Order was. Perhaps that was why she had gotten angry at him. Not because of what he had done to her, but because of what she had done to him. She was lying to him, in a way. She loved him, yes, but not in the same way he loved her. She meant everything to him, whereas he was far less important to her.

It pained her to acknowledge this, but it was true. Perhaps her conscience was telling her to push him away because she knew deep down that she was being unfair to him. He poured his entire soul into her, supporting her to pursue her ambitions even at the expense of himself. She, on the other hand, was unable to reciprocate his generosity. Qui-Gon deserved someone better than her. He deserved someone who could truly love and appreciate him.

Sitting back down on the bed, Shmi held her head in her hands and sighed. While she could acknowledge this truth conceptually, it was far harder for her to actually act on this. What would she do? Divorce him? Ask him to stop loving her? She couldn't possibly do that! Not only would it break Qui-Gon's heart, but it would devastate her. It was horribly selfish of her, but she couldn't imagine herself living a life without Qui-Gon in it in some capacity.

Aggravated by her seemingly incessant internal anguish, Shmi clawed at her temples and sagged her shoulders. How was she going to be able to reconcile her undeniable love for Qui-Gon with her overwhelming sense of guilt?

Resolving to address these issues fully when she returned from her mission, Shmi forced this gargantuan question out of her mind and resumed packing.


Jakku

When Shmi landed on Jakku two days later, she knew at once that something was amiss. It was as if the Force was screaming to her, begging for her to run. The darkness was unlike anything she had ever experienced before. It was oppressive, repugnant, and perversely fascinating to her. What could possibly be the source of such an odious power?

Eager to uncover the mystery, Shmi commandeered a speeder from a local village. Promising to herself that she would return the speeder later, Shmi took off into the desert in the direction where she instinctively knew the disturbance to be emanating from. She squinted heavily as the sun set on the horizon in front of her, bathing her in intense purple and orange light. In spite of the ferocious late afternoon heat, Shmi felt colder and colder as she got closer to the source. She was utterly repulsed, but she persevered farther into the desert. This mission had to be a success! Surely they would make her a Master after this. They would have to!

After nearly two hours of driving, Shmi finally came to a stop in the middle of a sandy valley. On either side of her, limestone plateaus rose up and mercifully blocked out the fading sunlight, allowing her to cease squinting. Stepping out of her speeder, Shmi grabbed her lightsaber and activated it at once. The darkness was tangible here, swirling about her vociferously. Every fiber of her being told her to run, but she persisted nonetheless.

About a hundred meters in front of her was a small domed building. It hadn't been what she had expected to find, but she knew at once that this was the source she was looking for. Her feet crunched on the sand as she approached, her blue lightsaber held at the ready by her side. She wasn't taking any chances. Not in this place. Whoever resided in this place was no doubt an enemy. Shmi had no be ready for anything.

Reaching the door, Shmi hesitated, unsure of how to proceed. During her moment of deliberation, however, the door swung open abruptly, startling Shmi. Disquieted, Shmi looked around herself anxiously. Did someone know she was here? But there was no one around, and there didn't seem to be any cameras. Forcing herself to calm down, Shmi took a deep breath and peered inside the hut. A set of stairs descended downward from the open door, leading down into an impermeable darkness. Holding up her lightsaber, Shmi began to descend. Each step down echoed loudly and soon Shmi was entirely enveloped in darkness. Looking back behind her, she could no longer see the light from where she had come from.

Shmi was thoroughly terrified now, yet she continued onward. Down she went, one tentative step at a time until finally she reached the end of the stairs. Her lightsaber provided the only source of light, and without it she wouldn't have been able to know if her eyes were even open or not. She had never experienced darkness of this magnitude, in either sense. Suddenly, Shmi stiffened and looked up, her sightless eyes darting around rapidly. She sensed something…

"Who is there?" she called out, her voice piercing the oppressive silence. Predictably, she received no response. Taking a cautious step forward, Shmi held her lightsaber in front of her in a vain attempt to illuminate her surroundings. "My name is Shmi Skywalker, Jedi Knight," she called out, her voice sounding unnaturally high from fear. "I demand that whoever is there reveal themselves at once."

A voice startled Shmi so much that she literally jumped backward. "Shmi Skywalker," it purred. "Welcome to Jakku."

"Who are you?" she asked, her head swiveling back and forth, unable to detect from where the voice was emanating.

"You may call me Darth Sidious," the voice whispered.

"You're a Sith?" she asked, utterly petrified.

"I am," Sidious said. "And do you know what that makes you?"

Shmi froze, gripping her lightsaber so hard that her hands had gone numb and her knuckles white. When Shmi didn't answer, Sidious cackled caustically, the horrific sound turning cacophonous in the echo chamber. "That makes you mine, Shmi Skywalker."

All of a sudden, Shmi was struck with a wave of blue lightning. Screaming, Shmi was sent backward where she landed hard on her back. She only just managed to hold onto her lightsaber as vicious agony coursed through her. Electricity wracked her body, clawing at her flesh and scorching her organs. It was pain unlike anything she had ever experienced before.

Finally, the onslaught came to an end. Scooting backward, Shmi held up her lightsaber in front of her face. Her breath was ragged and her eyes were wide with terror. "Show yourself!" she bellowed into the darkness. "Fight me!"

Sidious laughed once again, causing Shmi to wince. "I don't have to fight you, Shmi Skywalker," Sidious' evil voice said gleefully. "In time you will fight for me."

"Never," she said as she struggled to her feet. "I will never turn to the dark side!"

"Perhaps not," Sidious conceded. "But you will give me what I want."

Cool sweat poured down her forehead and into her eyes, causing her to shiver. Her skin was clammy and covered in goosebumps. Backing away slowly, Shmi was startled when she ran into a wall. "Show yourself!" Shmi called out once again, panic rising within her as she realized she was cornered.

Sidious didn't respond. Instead, she felt her wrist twitch and her lightsaber went flying out of her hand. Stunned, Shmi barely had time to register herself getting lifted into the air by her throat. Kicking wildly, Shmi clawed at her neck in a desperate and ultimately fruitless attempt to free herself. All the while, Sidious was laughing, the horrific discord barraging against her skull. She couldn't breathe! She was going to die…

The pressure against her larynx relented, and Shmi took a deep breath of frigid air. Still suspended in midair, Shmi was forced backward so that her back was flat against a wall. Terror rendered her immobile, her blind eyes so wide that they were practically bulging out of their sockets.

"Let me go!" she pleaded. "I beg you!" Tears flowed down her cheeks and plummeted down to the ground. Her teeth chattered viciously and snot coated her upper lip. This was such a horrible way to die…

An abrupt searing pain in her abdomen caused Shmi to shriek. It felt as if her entire midsection from her sternum to her hips was on fire. The pain was even worse than the lightning. Surely she was going to die. Surely this was the end…

"You will give me what I need, Shmi Skywalker," she heard Sidious say, his grating voice sounding distant and garbled to her ears. "Because of you, the Jedi Order will finally fall and the Sith will rule the galaxy!"

"No! No! No!" Shmi wailed, her whole body shaking furiously with suffering. "Please, no…"

Finally, the pain ceased and Shmi felt herself drop down, yet her feet never hit the ground. Instead, she kept plummeting into the void. As the darkness enveloped her and swallowed her whole, Shmi finally lost consciousness.


Coruscant

"You mean to say that the Sith have returned?"

Shmi was swaying back and forth in the middle of the Council room, her eyes fixated on the floor below her. She swallowed hard and nodded her head, unable to meet her former master's incredulous gaze.

How she had managed to return to Coruscant was a mystery to her. She had woken up by the speeder and fled. She had been so sure that she was going to die that she had been in a daze ever since. Somehow she had managed to get off Jakku and return to the Jedi Temple.

"That is impossible," Windu said dismissively. "The Sith have been extinct for a millennium."

Shmi shut her eyes tight, desperately wishing that the room would stop spinning. She had no idea what was going on or what she was supposed to do. She felt violated, isolated, and so, so afraid.

"It is possible that this is not a true Sith," a voice to her right said. "Perhaps it is an imposter merely posing as a Sith."

"That is improbable," someone else said. "Who else could have produced a disturbance of that magnitude?"

Shmi drowned out the conversation and rubbed her temples with her index fingers. She still felt the oppressive cold lingering within her. It was as if heart was encased in an icy shell. She was repulsed by herself, as if somehow she was now carrying that same darkness within her. As if she hadn't really left Jakku at all…

"Great fear, I sense in you young Skywalker."

Shmi looked up sharply towards the voice. Directly in front of her, Master Yoda was staring at her with an inquisitive look, his wide green eyes narrowed curiously as he contemplated her face.

"What are you afraid of Skywalker?" Windu asked, his voice softer and more compassionate than normal. All of a sudden she felt like a Padawan again. Utterly unconfident in herself and desperate for her master's support and encouragement which he gave oh so rarely.

"He… he did something to me," she managed to say, her voice cracking with fear.

"The Sith?" Plo Koon asked.

Shmi bobbed her head and took a deep, stabilizing breath. "Darth Sidious," she said. "That's what he called himself."

Yoda stroked his chin pensively and leaned forward in his chair. "Hurt you, did he?" Yoda asked plaintively.

Shmi's lower lip trembled as she recounted the horrific event. Her whole abdomen still burned with a dull, deep pain. She felt sore all over but the most injured part of her was in her mind. She had lost what little confidence she had once had. Now she was broken, thoroughly beaten and devastated. "Yes," she finally forced herself to say.

"Recuperate, you must do now," Yoda said, bowing his head sympathetically. "Return to us when you are well, you shall."

Feeling immensely grateful, Shmi genuflected before the gracious Grand Master and spun around to leave the daunting circular room. Pushing the wide double doors open, Shmi took off down the marble hallways without truly knowing where she was going. She just needed to get away. Far, far away from the Council and from herself.

"Shmi! Shmi wait up!"

Surprised, Shmi raised her head and exhaled loudly in relief. "Oh, Qui-Gon," she said, rushing into his arms without hesitation. Qui-Gon received her without question, cradling the back of her head as she dissolved into tears.

"It's alright," he cooed gently, stroking her hair with loving tenderness. "I've got you. You're okay, I've got you."


One week later

Shmi was hyperventilating in the bathroom in the Jedi Temple. This can't be happening, this can't be happening, this can't be happening…

Yet it was happening. It all made sense to her now. This had been the reason Sidious had let her escape. This was how he was going to use her.

He had raped her.

The very thought revolted her. She had never before felt so uncomfortable in her own skin. She felt tainted. The darkness within her had yet to abate and now she understood why. He had impregnated her.

It had all clicked in the most inopportune time. She had been sitting in on a council meeting being forced to discuss the great question on the Jedi's mind: the return of the Sith. Once she might have considered it a great honor to be invited to such an important meeting, but not anymore. Every time someone so much as said his name, Shmi would begin to shiver in disgust and terror.

She had been sitting in on the third such session when she sensed something within her. Two somethings, actually. The first had been that she had suddenly really needed to go to the bathroom, which was odd because she had already been three times that morning. The second, however, was that she had felt something latching onto her Force presence. It had been shocking, so much so that she had actually gasped out loud causing the entire Council to give her judgmental looks. Excusing herself hastily, Shmi had rushed out of the room to the bathroom where she had promptly thrown up into the sink.

Now she was holding a hand to her forehead, her other hand gripping the side of the sink to stabilize herself. It felt as if she was drowning. She was suffocating under all this strain and pressure. What was she going to do? She was pregnant! With the offspring of a Sith Lord, no less.

She had to inform the Council! They had to know what Sidious had done to her. But she knew she couldn't do that. She wouldn't be able to. She hadn't even been able to tell Qui-Gon the specifics of what Sidious had done to her. It was too horrible. Too fresh.

Shmi caught her breath when she felt it again. It was tugging at her through the Force, yet not in an unpleasant way. On the contrary, it was almost… endearing. This was her child, she realized with a start. It was relying on her Force presence to survive. It had latched onto herself, feeding off both her physical body and her metaphysical Force signature. Surely this was an unprecedented situation. Had there ever been a Jedi Knight who had been pregnant before?

Shmi stopped herself sternly. What was she doing? Why was she even thinking about this? This baby couldn't survive. It was the incarnation of evil! She had to kill it! She couldn't let Sidious' creation come to be.

But could she? This innocent, amorphous blob of energy had latched itself onto her. It was entirely reliant upon her; entirely dependent on her for survival. Sidious may have been responsible for its inception, but Shmi could tell that the baby itself wasn't evil. On the contrary, it was brilliantly pure and so full of light. She felt closer to this beautiful little creature than she had to anyone else in her life, including Qui-Gon. This child was a part of her. It was literally infused into her Force signature. She couldn't kill it, not without killing a tiny part of herself.

So what was she going to do? She couldn't remain in the Order. In a few months it would become clear that she was expecting. What would they do to her then? Would they force her to terminate the pregnancy? Would they expel her from the Order and take her lightsaber from her? She couldn't let either of these things happen. She couldn't let them find out.

What was wrong with her? She couldn't be hiding this from the Jedi Order! Her emotional attachment to this unborn child ought to be irrelevant to her duty as a Jedi Knight. That was what she had been taught, practically since birth. Attachments are forbidden! And yet she had married Qui-Gon in spite of that. She now knew that the rule against attachments was ridiculous. Qui-Gon had shown her that over the past three years. Her attachment to Qui-Gon hadn't compromised her abilities as a Jedi. On the contrary, he had heightened them! Without Qui-Gon, she never would have gained the confidence in herself which she had needed in order to develop her abilities. Her attachment to her unborn child was not something that she ought to resist. This child was going to enhance her life just like Qui-Gon had. The Jedi didn't have any right to take her child away from her!

Feeling as if she was going insane, Shmi clawed her fingernails into her forehead and screamed. What was happening to her? It felt as if everything in her life had been flipped upside down. It was as if she was still in that chamber on Jakku. She had no idea which direction was up or down and she was totally blind, unsure of where to go or what to do.

She couldn't kill her child. Of this, Shmi was certain. The logical part of her was insisting that she was making a horrible mistake by letting this baby come to term. She knew she was playing into Sidious' hand by allowing this child to live, but there was no way she would be able to abort her child. She was too closely attached to him or her already.

The question of what she would do next, however, was far murkier. It was clear she would have to leave the Jedi Order. But how? And where would she go? She had to go somewhere where Sidious wouldn't find her. Somewhere remote. Somewhere where she and her child would be safe.

And what about Qui-Gon? Shmi rubbed her forehead wearily as she considered this crucial question. If she told him the truth – the full truth – would he be repulsed by her? Would he despise her just like she despised herself now? The logical voice in her head insisted that no, he wouldn't be angry at her. Surely he would understand. But once again, she refused to listen to that voice. She was convinced that he would hate her. How could he not? She had rebuffed him for three years, refusing to give him the child which he so desired, and now all of a sudden she was pregnant with the offspring of a Sith Lord! He had every right to be irate with her.

No, she couldn't tell him the truth. She could lie to him. She could tell him that the child was his! He would be thrilled if she told him that! But Shmi knew she couldn't do that either. She couldn't lie to him like that. Besides, what would happen if he found out the truth? He would be furious! And then what would he do? He wouldn't be able to return to the Order, that's for sure. She would have singlehandedly destroyed his life and to what end? So that she could enjoy his company while she ran away from Sidious and the Jedi? Qui-Gon deserved better than that. He deserved someone better than her. He always had, and Shmi had secretly always known this, although she hadn't been willing to admit it until now.

She had to leave him. It was for the best, she told herself. While he would surely be devastated, he would recover in time. If she forced him to run away with her, who knows what could happen when he inevitably found out the truth. She had to tear off the proverbial band-aid. Maybe in time she would be able to explain herself to him. Maybe in time they could be reunited.

Brushing away tears, Shmi recomposed herself and took a long look at herself in the mirror. She hated herself. She hated herself for breaking Qui-Gon's heart. She hated herself for allowing Sidious to violate her like he had. She hated herself for being unable to do the objectively logical thing and terminate the pregnancy.

She hated everything about herself. And that was why she had to leave everyone else behind. That was why she had to disappear.